Who Can Donate Blood?

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The FDA is Poised to Lift the Ban on Blood Donations by Gay Men


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Can I Donate Blood as a Gay Man?

Gay Marriage and the blood donation question

5/13/2015 - The Food and Drug Administration announced today that they are ready to lift the ban on blood donations by gay or bisexual men. This ban has been in effect for the past 30 years.

These men must be certifiably celibate for one year prior to donation. The change in policy reflects new information (from other countries) that shows that the blood from celibate gay or bisexual men would not increase the incidence of HIV infection in America's blood supply.

Dr. Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, noted in December that some of the most compelling data for the change came from Australia, which in 2000 implemented a one-year deferral on blood donations from sexually active gay men. Source: HealthFinder.gov

According to the FDA, the potential for HIV infection is greatest in:

  • men who have had sex with an HIV-positive woman or commercial sex worker (also applies to women)
  • men who have sex with other men (even once) - monogamous or not (this was a permanent blood donation exclusion before now).
  • anyone sharing used needles to take drugs, steroids, etc.
  • male prostitutes
  • anyone with hemophilia or sickle cell disease

The celibate part of the one year clause does NOT apply to monogamous male couples who are married. These men are considered to be "sexually active" and therefore will still be unable to donate blood.

So, just to clear this new rule up - If you are a gay man who has NOT had sex for one year or more, you may now donate blood.

However, if you are a married gay man who is sexually active with your exclusive partner, you will still be excluded from donating blood.

Signs and Symptoms of HIV Infection:

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been around for over 30 years now. In the beginning of the epidemic, several people were infected via blood transfusions from infected individuals carrying the virus, most commonly from the donations from the homosexual community.

Some very famous people died from these viral loaded blood transfusions, most notably, Isaac Asimov and Arthur Ashe. Because of their notoriety, a ban was instituted on blood donations from gay men. The ban didn't include gay women for some reason, though. But before a reliable rapid test was found to diagnose the infection, the ban was put in place and anyone with the signs and/or symptoms of HIV infection were asked to refrain from donating blood.

Exclusions included, but were not limited to:

  • unexplained weight loss (10 pounds or more in less than 2 months)
  • night sweats
  • blue or purple spots in your mouth or skin
  • white spots or unusual sores in your mouth
  • lumps in your neck, armpits, or groin, lasting longer than one month
  • diarrhea that won’t go away
  • cough that won’t go away and shortness of breath, or
  • fever higher than 100.5 F lasting more than 10 days.

Source: The Red Cross - Blood Donor Eligibility

Another unfortunate side effect of the early years of HIV infection and detection is that AIDS (Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome), the disease produced from HIV infection, caused the deaths of thousands of people with bleeding disorders and sickle cell disease.

Now, after 30 years of medical science, we have the means and ability to detect early infection from HIV. It is still possible to transmit HIV before the virus can be detected, but the odds of doing so have been dramatically reduced to nearly zero.

FDA plans to end prohibition on blood donation by gay men

General Blood Donor Eligibility:

There are many categories of blood donation. Specific requirements exist for blood, plasma, platelets, and pheresis donations. It's always best to call your local blood center to get their guidelines before heading down to give blood.

The most basic requirements are:

  • be in good health and feeling well
  • be 16 years old (with parental permission) or 17 years old in most states
  • weigh at least 110 pounds

Who Can NOT Donate Blood?

After passing the basic eligibility requirements, one must also pass a more in-depth analysis of eligibility. There are various reasons for exclusions from donating blood. These exclusions vary from state to state and from country to country. Sometimes a pass from the Medical Director of the specific blood bank must be obtained before certain people are allowed to donate.

General Exclusions include, but are not limited to<:/p>

  • low hemoglobin/hematocrit (anemia)
  • Cold, flu, or other illness
  • a general list of temporary exclusions like certain travel, medications, tattoos
  • a general list of permanent exclusions like certain travel, medical conditions

A Complete List of Eligibility Requirements From the Red Cross:

Eligibility Criteria: Alphabetical List

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